Artist George Ortman awarded Indiana University Thomas Hart Benton Medallion

  • Oct. 24, 2014


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie has awarded the Thomas Hart Benton Medallion to George Ortman, the renowned artist who designed the striking banners that hang in the lobby of the university’s Musical Arts Center.

The award was presented Thursday during a dinner at the Musical Arts Center hosted by McRobbie and IU first lady Laurie Burns McRobbie. The 21-by-21-foot banners, featuring abstract patterns in bright colors, have hung in the building’s lobby since 1972.

Ortman is an American painter, printmaker, sculptor and constructionist whose work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the National Gallery of Art, the Indianapolis Museum of Art and numerous other galleries.

“George Ortman’s long and distinguished career in art is a model for so many aspiring artists at Indiana University,” McRobbie said, “and the magnificent banners he designed for this facility will continue to welcome and inspire music and art lovers for many years to come. I am very pleased to recognize his accomplishments and contributions with this award.”

The Thomas Hart Benton Medallion is given to individuals who have achieved a level of distinction in public office or service and have exemplified the values of IU.

Ortman’s constructions, referred to as Neo-Dada, Pop Art, Minimalism and Hard Edge, explore visual language derived from geometry. Originally from Oakland, Calif., Ortman began studying at the California College of Arts and Crafts after serving in the U.S. Navy. He later studied at Atelier 17 and the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts in New York and Atelier Lhote in Paris. He lives in Maine.

He has been a professor of the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Detroit, Princeton University, the School of Visual Arts in New York and New York University. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Design and has received the Lee Krasner Award for Lifetime Achievement and other honors.

The banners that now hang at the Musical Arts Center are the third fabrication of the banners that Ortman designed for the building’s opening. The banners are made of felt and were subject to fading. The New York firm that produced the original banners fabricated new ones in 1997.

Over time those also faded and were taken down, and the original specifications no longer existed. Five employees of the IU Residential Programs and Services sewing room recreated the banners using photographs and materials from the IU Archives. McRobbie presented the employees the E. Ross Bartley Award, the highest staff award given by the university, in February.

The bronze Benton Medallion features a representation of a portion of one of the Indiana Murals painted by Thomas Hart Benton. The reverse side has the seal of the university and space for the name of the recipient and date of presentation. A list of recipients is available online.

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IU President Michael A. McRobbie, left, congratulates artist George Ortman for receiving the Thomas Hart Benton Medallion

IU President Michael A. McRobbie, left, congratulates artist George Ortman for receiving the Thomas Hart Benton Medallion

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Media Contacts

Mark Land

Associate vice president, IU Communications